Polishing a Satin Finish Guitar
Note change below regarding use of non-silicone added wax.
Disclaimer: The following describes how I polished my guitars. Although I consider this a fairly easy process, anything you do to a guitar finish has some element of risk. I would recommend calling the manufacturer and describing this process to get their feedback. Both Martin and Larrivee had heard of this process and had not heard of anyone having problems, but of course they won't recommend it. But, they also said that it would in no way void the warrantees as this process does not affect anything on the guitar that would be covered under a warrantee.
Polishing a satin finish guitar using the following method results in an appearance that falls somewhere between a satin and gloss finish. Here I have posted photos before and after polishing my Larrivee L-01. I have also polished a Martin OM-15 with the same results. Both the Martin OM-15 and the Larrivee L-01 came from the factory with less expensive satin finishes. Polishing it using this method allows you to have a finish that resembles a more expensive gloss finish at a fraction of the cost. As a matter of fact, I think the results look even better than a high gloss finish. A satin finish can be very noisy when the guitar is moved against your clothing with a resulting "swish" sound. This can cause problems with pickups and microphones when recording and amplifying. The polished finish greatly reduces this noise. The job usually takes between 3-6 hours and material costs are low.
I used the Meguiar's Deep Crystal System which can be found at most auto parts stores. Also I used three application pads for application of the Meguiar's and soft terry cloth towels to wipe it off. Also I used painter's tape to mask off any areas you I didn't want to polish (bridge, pickguards, neck - since I like to keep the neck satin, etc.) I used a screwdriver (not the drink) and wrench as well to remove the tuners to polish the headstock.
Use Step 1 and Step 2 Meguiar's System. The bottles are labeled as follows:
Step 1 - Paint Cleaner or Steel Wool- Removes the original satin finish. Use only one application of the Step 1 .I prefer using steel wool (0000) in place of Meguiar's Step 1. The steel wool will give a much better shine. Be careful to use even strokes with the steel wool though. The finish after this step (polish or steel wool) will be slightly glossy, but don't expect it to look VERY glossy after this step. Step 2 will provide the glossiness you're looking for.
Step 2 - Polish - This is when the finish really starts to shine! I used five applications of Step 2 on both my Martin and Larrivee with stunning results. Although it would probably be OK to use more than five applications, I didn't as it was already glossy enough for me. By the same token, if you like less gloss, reduce the number applications. But remember, when you apply the wax in the next step, you would have to remove the wax to go back and polish again.
Then use a non-silicone added wax. - Caution: Meguiar's Step 3 - Carnuba Wax contains silicone. This silicone can cause problems in the future if you ever want to refinish your guitar. It is best to use a non-silicone added wax. Remember, the wax step is to protect the finish you have created in Step 2. The wax step is not for further polishing. I used one application of the carnuba wax on my Martin and two on my Larrivee (No particular reason except the Larrivee was my second guitar polished . I was now familiar with the results of the process. I felt more comfortable with applying two coats of wax because I was pretty sure I was going to like the results and would not need to strip off the wax to do further polishing).
YOU'RE DONE. CONGRATULATIONS!!
Cleaning the new finish - Where the original satin finish would only accept a damp rag or cleaners such as Googalie sprays, etc., the new finish will accept guitar waxes as well. Although it's probably not necessary.
Below are before and after photos of my L-01 and I've thrown in a couple of my Martin finished results as well.
A couple more.............
Photos of the polished Martin OM-15......